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Federal Update - June 2022

June 28, 2022
Melissa C. Goemann



Congress Passes Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
 

In response to the tragic Uvalde school shooting, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) and President Biden signed it into law on June 25th.  While this Act has provisions that we hope will help communities, such as investments in mental health services, NJJN is concerned about provisions we have detailed below that may be weaken confidentiality of juvenile and mental health records for youth and could contribute to school hardening: 

  • As part of the enhanced background check system for youth under age 21, states will be required to determine if these youth have a “possibly disqualifying juvenile record” by contacting the juvenile justice information system of the state, the state custodian of mental health adjudication records, and local law enforcement agencies. It is unclear which juvenile and mental health records are encompassed within this directive.

  • The Act establishes a Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety Evidence-based Practices to be run by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), together with other specified federal agencies. A Federal Clearinghouse led by DHS   could lead to recommendations that are more focused on school hardening and expansion of law enforcement than on creating positive school environments for children. 

  • Provides $300 million in funding through the STOP School ViolenceAct. This Act provides funding for school threat assessment teams which can result in the profiling of and discrimination against Black and Brown students, and children with disabilities. 

For further information about the bill see this one-pager from Senator Murphy’s (D-CT) office. Stay tuned for a future event from NJJN to discuss actions that can be taken to protect youth.

Bill Introduced in Senate to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Youth Legal System 

On June 14th, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System Act. The bill would expand access to  funding for jurisdictions seeking to address racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and boost local services, planning, and data-sharing to promote more equitable treatment of youth. NJJN was one of the organizations which endorsed the bill. Below are key provisions in the bill: 

  • Clarifies that JJDPA block grants can be used to fund programs seeking to reduce racial and ethnic disparities; 

  • Promotes funding opportunities for small, community-based providers in counties with higher-than-average rates of youth involvement in the youth legal system; 

  • Requires states to create a plan to identify and record youth data disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and to provide a publicly-accessible annual report on their progress to address racial and ethnic disparities; 

  • Requires OJJDP to issue guidance for states on collecting and reporting youth data on race and ethnicity; and 

  • Ensures that youth of color with prior experience with the youth legal system, or parents/ guardians of such youth, are represented on State Advisory Groups and on state, local, and tribal-level coordinating bodies dedicated to monitoring efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

For additional information, see this press release on the bill. 

New OJJDP Pilot Initiative to Support Closing Youth Prisons 

On June 6th, OJJDP announced the FY2022 Community-Based Alternatives to Youth Incarceration Initiative. This initiative will support state efforts to close youth correctional facilities, assess and respond to the impact of closures on facility staff and the surrounding communities, and reinvest state and local resources to support more effective community-based services and supports for justice-involved youth and their families. See this link for further details about this grant opportunity. 

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY23 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Funding Bill  

On June 28th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2023 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. A summary of the bill can be found here. The House bill includes the following funding for youth justice:

  • $75 million for Title II (as compared to $70 million in the current fiscal year); 

  • $110 million for mentoring ($102 million currently);

  • $62.5 million for Title V ($49.5 currently) with the money directed to be spent as follows: 

    - $5 million focused on trafficking of girls;
    - $14 million for tribal youth;
    - $500,000 for an internet site for youth whose parents are incarcerated;
    - $5.5 million to address the needs of girls in the youth justice system;
    - $12 million to address the needs of opioid addicted youth; and
    - $8 million for violence prevention. 

  • $3 million for indigent defense;

  • $3.5 million for alternatives to incarceration;

  • $4.5 million for collaborations between child welfare and youth justice;

  • $1 million to remove barriers related to juvenile court records; and

  • $2.5 million for hate crime prevention.

National Sign-on Letters and Comments 

Please see below for a list of the national letters that NJJN has signed since our last newsletter and see the federal policy page of our website for a complete list: 

  • 6/1/22 - Endorsed Valid Court Order (VCO) phase out bill (Casey/Cardenas) to be introduced soon 

  • 6/1/22 - Endorsed Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System Act (Warren/Whitehouse) to expand access to funding for jurisdictions seeking to address racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and boost local services, planning, and data-sharing to promote more equitable treatment of youth.

  • 6/6/22 - Sign-on letter from the Latonya Reeves Freedom Act Coalition asking Senate and House leaders to swiftly pass the Latonya Reeves Freedom Act (H.R. 6860/S.3417) which would protect and expand the civil right of Americans with disabilities to receive long-term services and supports (LTSS) in the setting of their choice. 

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